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Dimitriy Kizilov, Kazakhstani Volunteer at Zhusan Drug Rehabilitation Centre, Almaty oblast
07 July 2003
by Dimitriy Kizilov

Mr Dimitriy Kizilov, himself once a drug addict, in 1998 became a volunteer at Zhusan drug rehabilitation centre near Almaty after completing his treatment there. Still there after four years, he is now the Executive Director.

What is the nature of your work as a volunteer?

I am the Executive Director of the Zhusan Foundation, a drug rehabilitation centre. I became a volunteer in Zhusan in April 1998.

How did you find out about the opportunity to work as a volunteer, and how were you selected?

At that time, I knew nothing about volunteerism, it was just that I myself was getting treatment in Zhusan's drug rehabilitation programme, and at the end of the programme I remained at the centre as volunteer. I found out from the newspapers that this centre was opening and went there practically as soon as it opened.

What prompted you to become a volunteer?

I myself underwent rehabilitation and I saw from the inside the problem of drug addiction in the country, as well as the problems the centre faced every day. I wanted to help the centre and the people who came to the centre for treatment. Apart from this, I also receive moral support from working in the centre, so as a result of my voluntary work both the centre and I benefit.

What were your expectations of volunteer work, and were these met?

I expected the centre to develop quickly and flourish as it was doing something needed, and this in fact happened. Now we are paying more attention to preventing drug addiction, as everyone knows that it is easier to prevent this problem than to cure it. I give presentations in schools and tertiary institutions, and carry out various preventive activities. It is especially effective to teach others based on personal examples. Following my example, the young people who come to the centre for treatment not only stop taking drugs, they also stay on to work as volunteers, like me. Almost all of the centre staff are volunteers.

Of course, we would like government bodies to give us more help, but I never had much hope of that. Now at least they don't interfere with our work like they did before. Actually, now they even give us some help. We collaborate with, for example, the Committee for Healthy Lifestyle Development, and the City and Republican AIDS centres; and we are already in our second year of work with the Almaty City Akimat, and the Academy of Sport and Tourism (they are developing a module of exercises for rehabilitating drug addicts). International organizations are also providing assistance.

Please describe your work as a volunteer.

When I started work at the centre, I specialized in dealing with withdrawal syndrome. I worked with newly arrived drug addicts. Then I worked as a technical specialist, because the dilapidated kindergarten building we received needed a lot of work. We had to renovate it ourselves, install a heating system, and do other work to make the building liveable. As I had my own vehicle, I worked in the centre, as well as in the Zhusan Foundation, and would go into the city to take care of certain matters such as buying food and medicines. Then I worked more as a trainer. I gave talks and discussions based on my personal experiences. I answered all questions which students and schoolchildren asked me, apart from three questions: where drugs are sold, how drugs are prepared from substitutes or raw opium, and how good I felt when I was high on drugs. Now I am responsible for practically all of the centre's work, and I also work in the Foundation. All our volunteers work in a team, if one of us is not able to work or gets sick, we are always able to stand in for each other. In the centre we teach job skills to our clients as part of the such as wood processing, furniture making, sewing, vehicle repair, and so on. If our clients want to find employment after their treatment rather than volunteering, we try to help them with this as well, even using our personal contacts.

What were your views about volunteerism before you started work, and how have these views changed as a result of your work as a volunteer?

Before; I only had a superficial conception of volunteerism, I couldn't imagine how people could work without getting paid. I had always worked for pay. But now I know that volunteering give a person a lot, most of all personal satisfaction, which in my view is stronger than material reward. By helping others, I help myself, because now I have moral obligations to others and myself. Because I am working against drugs and I tell others that they are bad, if I were to start taking them again, I would above all betray myself. Volunteering can and does solve many social problems. You can't force a person to help people for money - only volunteers can help others without reward as a result of their humanitarian convictions empathy for others. So I can say, based on our organization's experience, that volunteerism is necessary for the development of society.